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August Holidays Asterisks appear next to saintsí names - see Celebrating Saints

August 1 Lughnasad

August 1 - 3 Drimes
The Greeks honor the first three days of August as a transition point in the year. Proverbs such as "August has come--the first step of winter," and "Winter begins in August, summer in March," reflect the sense of change which occurs on this quarter-day.

August is a favorite month because of its abundance. On the isle of Lesbos, August is welcomed with the exclamation "August! Figs and walnuts!" said while jumping across bonfires built at crossroads. This is also a time for house-cleaning, all night parties in vineyards and making offerings to the spirits of the dead. According to the Greeks, the third day of August predicts the weather for the next three months.

The first three days of August, the Drimes, are especially significant. They are called the "sharp days." People avoid chopping wood, washing hair, swimming in the sea and (children especially) going out in the noonday sun. Washing clothes is also forbidden although if it must be done, putting a nail in the laundry will nail the sharp days. These proscriptions (like that on eating meat) recall the celebration of Tisha B'Av (see August 7) and the Hebrew month of Av usually overlaps with August.

August 1st is the start of a meat-free period which lasts until the Feast of the Assumption (August 15). Probably in earlier times, the fasting period extended from the new moon to the full moon of August and the feast of Artemis-Hecate. Urlin says Greek Christians, Copts and Armenians call this period of fasting "Assumption Lent."

For all of the trepidation of the Sharp Days, August is a favorite month of the Greeks, where old prints show fruits or sheaves of wheat with the traditional verse: "August, my lovely month, come twice a year." Storace writes:

this is the month that gives the greatest feeling of security, overflowing abundance, of ease and earned pleasure, when the farmers have stored in their cellars grains and corn, hay and feed for their animals, wood for their fires. August is the month of the richest eating, with its seemingly endless fruits and vegetables, "so many you need shawls to gather them," one verse says.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Rufus, Anneli,
The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994
Storace, Patricia,
Dinner with Persephone, Pantheon 1996
Urlin, Ethel L, Festivals,
Holy Days and Saints' Days: A Study in Origins and Survivals in Church Ceremonies and Secular Customs, republished by Gale Research 1979

August 1 New Moon in Leo, Solar Eclipse
This is the month of Metageitnion in the Greek calendar, Av in the Jewish calendar and the start of the seventh month in the Chinese calendar.

The total solar eclipse will be visible in a narrow band across northern Canada, Greenland, Siberia, Mongolia and China. A partial eclipse will be visible in eastern North America, most of Europe and most of Asia.

Jim Maynard’s Pocket Astrologer 2008

August 1 Honey Day
In a custom similar to those involving horses at Lughnasa in Ireland, Russians used to bring their horses to the church to be blessed on the first of August. If there was a river in the village, the priest blessed that and the horses were driven into it.

Rappoport, A. S., Home Life in Russia, Macmillan 1913, p. 51.

Maypole DanceReaping the Grain

August 1 St Faith
There are two Saint Faiths (see Oct 6). This one is the spurious daughter of the spurious St. Sophia (see Sep 18). Her sisters are Hope and Charity.

A good day for reviewing your beliefs. Or for pondering this selection from T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

August 1 St Peter's Chains
A feast commemorating the escape of St Peter from the prison into which he was thrust by Herod. In the middle of the night he was awakened by a bright light heralding the presence of an angel. His chains fell off, the angel walked him past all of his guards and the iron gate to the city opened before them. Then the angel disappeared.

Ponder the things which keep you enchained and pray for divine intervention.

August 1 Feast of the Progress of the Precious and Vivifying Cross
Macedonias light bonfires at dusk on this holy day, and boys jump over them saying, “Dig up! Bury!” This is the beginning of a two-week fast from meat, in preparation for the Feast of the Repose of the Virgin (Assumption).

Abbott, G.F., Macedonian Folklore, Cambridge University Press 1903, p. 61.

August 2 Lammas

August 2 Salt Water Day
Every once in a while, I fall in love with a completely mysterious holiday and this is one of them. I found it on a calendar in the now-defunct Festivals magazine, with no explanation as to its origin or customs. But I love the notion that on one day a year, you should seek out salt water. I'm not sure what you do if you live in the Midwest. Perhaps you could take a bath in epsom salts or purchase some salt water taffy.

August 2 Feast of the Virgin of Angels
The Virgin of the Angels is the patroness of Costa Rica. Pilgrims travel to her basilica in Cartago, where is she represented by a black stone called La Negrita (the dark one).

Budapest, Z, Grandmother of Time, Harper & Row 1979

St Faith
St Faith

August 2 The Lady of the Lake
On the first Sunday in August, the Welsh used to make pilgrimages to Llyn y Fan fach (a lake near Llanddeusant in Dyfed) to watch for the annual reappearance of the fairy from this lake who married a mortal but returned to the lake the third time he struck her. Before she left, she bequeathed her knowledge of herbal medicine to her sons, who became the ancestors of the renowned physicians of Myddfai.

When I visited Wales many years ago, I made a special pilgrimage to Myddfai (although not in August). It was a pretty little village but not a soul was around, not even a dog or a cat, although it was the middle of the day. I have to believe it is indeed an enchanted place.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

August 3 Weather Prognostication
Greeks look at the weather on the third day of August to predict the weather for the next three months. If it's nice, it will be nice for the next three months.

Rufus, Anneli, The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994

August 5 Oyster Day
Londoners believe that if you eat an oyster today you will not want for money all year. This sentiment is expressed in the following rhyme from Hone's Every-Day Book, published in 1829, which describes the mad dash to Billingsgate where the fish market was located:

Greengrocers rise at dawn of sun
August the fifth — come haste away
To Billingsgate the thousands run
To Oyster Day! To Oyster Day!

Actually in England, the legal close season for oysters was 15 June to 4 August so this was actually the day after oyster season closed. But the common saying is that one should never eat oysters in months without an R, which would include August, as well as June and July.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Kightly, Charles,
The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames & Hudson 1987

August 5 Brigg Fair
The date of a famous horse fair held in Lincolnshire, mentioned in the lovely folk song: Horse-racing was a common activity at Lammas, particularly in Ireland.

It was on the 5th of August
The weather fair and fine
Unto Brigg Fair
I did repair
For love I was inclined.

August 5, Mary of the Snows
According to the legend, in the fourth century, the Virgin Mary appeared in a dream on the same night to both Pope Liberius and a wealthy Roman couple who wished to leave their fortune to the church. She asked them to build a cathedral on the spot where it snowed in Rome on August 5th. It snowed that day on Esquiline Hill and the church of Santa Maria Maggiore was built on the spot.

Our Lady of the Snows became a favorite title of Mary in Italy and spread north to Germany and Switzerland., for instance there is a chapel of St Mary of the Snows on the Rigi, a mountain pilgrimage site in central Switzerland.

Yoder, Don, Groundhog's Day, Stackpole Press

August 6 Transfiguration
This refers to the vision of Christ in glory, shining like the sun and talking to Elijah and Moses, witnessed by Peter, James and John. Perhaps it also refers to the mysteries of the grain and grapes which occur at this time of the year. It is observed on this date in Russia and other Eastern European countries, but in other places it is celebrated 98 days after Easter.

Russians take apples to church to be blessed and then enjoy the first apples of the season (which should not be eaten before this date).

The Fiesta Agostinas (August feasts) are celebrated in El Salvador, despite the fact that this is the rainy season. Sixteen stewardesses are appointed to decorate their districts, organize feasts and contribute a float for the grand procession which features a massive float of the Savior of the World.

A good day for getting in touch with your divine self or perhaps for baking bread or making wine or beer. Enjoy the first harvest of local apples.

August 6 Digging of the Mud
On this day, on the Greek island of Lemnos, the special clay called terra sigillata or “earth that has been stamped with a seal” has been dug up for centuries, first under the auspices of the priestesses of Diana, and in the sixteenth century, under the watchful eye of civil authorities. The clay was mixed with blood from a sacrificial goat, shaped into lozenges, stamped with the figure of a goat (or other figure) and dried. These tiny lozenges were distributed to kings, princes and popes as antidotes to poison.

I got this fascinating information from this interesting book on ancient medical practices that actually work (clay of course has certain minerals in it that can counteract poison):

Root-Bernstein, Robert and Michele, Honey, Mud, Maggots and Other Medical Marvels, Houghton Mifflin

August 6 Horse God
On the 23rd day of the 6th lunar month, the Chinese honor the Horse-god (Mawang).

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

August 7-8 Dog Days/Doyo
The Japanese call these the Dog Days, the most dangerous time of the year because of the heat which brings with it vermin and illness. The best way to stay healthy during this time is to eat lots of eels, whose slippery coolness is the proper antidote. For more information on the Dog Days, see July 2.

Rufus, Anneli, The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994

August 7 Tiu Chen (Laying Down Needles), Weaver Woman
On the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, the Chinese honor the Weaver Woman who wove the robes of the deities. All needlework is admired on this day. Girls put a needle into a bowl of water and look at in the sunlight. They inspect the fineness of the shadow and the patterns it makes (of flowers or clouds) for predictions of the quality of their needlework.

At this time of the year, the star Vega (known to the Chinese as the Maiden) seems to cross the Milky Way (which the Chinese called the Bridge of Magpies) and join the star Altair (known as the Cowherd). The myth which explains these stellar movements tells about how the Cowherd and the Maiden were going to be wed. She was so happy she stopped weaving. The Sun-God ordered a flock of magpies to bridge the Heavenly River and ordered the Cowherd to cross to the other side. Now the two only meet once a year on this day, when the Magpies form a bridge for the Maiden to cross. But she cannot do so if it rains, so women pray for clear skies. They also ask the Maiden for skill in needlework and make offerings to her of cakes and watermelons.

Tun Li-Ch'en has a slightly different version of this legend, which he says is often enacted as a play on this holiday. The Spinning Damsel (identified with the constellation Lyra) was banished from Heaven to earth where she met and married the Oxherd (identified with the constellation Aquila). When she was forced to return to Heaven, he tried to follow but was blocked by the Milky Way. Only once a year, when magpies form a bridge over the Milky Way, can they see each other again.

Chang Chin-ju writes that in the Tang dynasty, one Buddhist deity was depicted as a baby holding a lotus flower and laughing. On the seventh of the seventh, which he calls a festival for unmarried women, boys parade through the streets holding lotus flowers. He thought this might be connected to the idea that the lotus (a symbol of fertility because of its many seeds) helps mothers produce boys. Li-Chen records a similar custom on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month (see August 11). My guess is that two holidays are getting confused here. It makes sense that the 7th of the 7th is a festival for unmarried women, whose specialty is needlework (much like St Catherine, patron of spinsters and spinners) while the carrying of the lotus leaf may have more to do with rebirth.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Casal, V.A.,
The Five Sacred Festivals of Ancient Japan, Tokyo: Sophia University and Charles Tuttle, 1967, pp. 79-94.
Ha, Tae Hung,
Folk Customs and Family Life, Seoul, Korea: Yonsei, 1958, p. 890Chang Chin-ju, translated by Jonathan Barnard, "Lotus, Flower of Paradise," www.sinorama.com.tw/en/8607/607038e3.html
Li-Chen, Tun, translated by Derk Bodde,
Annual Customs and Festivals in Peking, Peking: Henri Vetch, 1936
Trager, James,
Letters from Sachiko Atheneun 1982, pp. 111, 207

August 8 Birthday of the Seven Old Maids
On the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, the Taiwanese honor the seven old maids, Chhit-niu-ma, daughters of the god of the hearth, Tsao Shen. The Spinning Maid is the youngest of these sisters, who are the protectors of children. Parents seek their aid when they want to conceive or solicit good health for their children, by making a promise to give to charity or sponsor an opera or puppet show. They also hang the banner of the Eight Immortals over the door and invite friends and relatives to a banquet. If the child for whom this aid is sough lives to be sixteen, the family at that time must fulfill their vow to the Seven Sisters by killing a pig.

Young women are supposed to lay out offerings for the the Seven Sisters (or sometimes just the Weaver Girl) under the moon. These offerings include incense, fresh flowers, fruit, face powder and other cosmetics. In Hong Kong, unmarried girls often form clubs to contribute money to create these displays. If a girl should marry after she subscribes, she must continue paying through the next festival.

Burkhardt, V.R., Chinese Creeds and Customs, Hong Kong: South China Morning Post, 1982, pp. 41-42.
Saso, Michael R.,
Taiwan Feasts and Customs, Taiwan: Chabanel Language Institute, pp 61-2.

August 8 The Fourteen Holy Helpers
Apparently a day when one can invoke en masse or separately these saints who protect various groups or from specific harms: Acacius (Jun 22, soldiers), Barbara (Dec 4, lightning, fire, explosions and sudden death), Blaise (Feb 3, throat disease), Catherine (Nov 25, philosophers, students & wheelwrights), Christopher (Jul 25, travellers in difficulty), Cyriac (Mar 16, 8, demonic possession), Denys (Oct 9, headache and rabies), Erasmus (June 2, colic and cramps), Eustace (Sept 20, huntsmen), George (Apr 23, soldiers), Giles (Sept 1, epilepsy, insanity & sterility), Margaret (July 20, possession, pregnant women), Panteleon (27 July, phthisis), Vitus (June 15, epilepsy and his dance).
According to Blackburn and Holford-Strevens, this holiday became popular during the 15th century and spread from Germany to Hungary, Italy and France. In some places, the list is longer and includes the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Saints Anthony, Leonard, Nicholas, Roch and Sebastian.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

August 9 Sol Indiges
In ancient Rome, a public sacrifice was made to Sol Indiges, a sun god, whose qualifier (indiges) may indicate that he is the sun god indigenous to the area.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

August 9 Frost Nights begin
According to the Norwegians, this is the start of a series of frost nights, with August 12th, usually the worst.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

August 9 Polka Day
Someone somewhere declared this Polka Day and I’m happy to further the cause of my favorite dance. My very first dance experiences, if you don’t count lessons at the Art Linkletter-Totten School of Tap and Acrobatics when I was 5 and the terrible mixers at my all-girls high school where the girls stood one one side of the auditorium and the boys stood on the other) were polka dances at St Mary’s Byzantine Rite Catholic Church on Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys. I went with my high school girl friends. There were no boys our age. We loved to dance with the older men, when we could pry them away from their wives, since they could teach us the polka (Polish hop version) and the waltz. Meanwhile everyone sat at long tables eating pirogis and drinking beer while the little kids amused themselves running around the edges of the hall. This is the way dancing used to be done—village style.

August 10 Tisha B’Av
One of my favorite Jewish holidays, although I've never celebrated it. I like the emphasis on the heat of the summer, the feeling of dread, which links this with old superstitions about the dog days and their deleterious effects.

It was probably derived from a Babylonian festival, held on the ninth of Av, a day of dread and sorrow, the climax of a month-long celebration focused on torches and firewood. The Jews may have chosen this day to commemorate the burning of the Temple.

It is a day of deep mourning. Beginning at sundown, Jews don't eat or drink, wear leather, wash themselves, anoint their skin or hair with oils or perfume, or make love. The synagogue service is conducted like a funeral. The Ark of the Torah is draped in black, or left empty. There are no bright lights, just candles, and in some Sephardic and Eastern congregations, those are extinguished before the end of the service.

These proscriptions remind me of the customs associated with the Dog Days and the first three days of August in Greece (the Drimes). The Greeks also fast between August 1 and August 15th, which would (in the old lunar calendar) occur from the new to the full moon of Av.

The morning service the following day is also solemn, but in the afternoon the mood changes. In some communities, women put on perfume to welcome King Messiah. After sundown, the fast is broken, and Jews wash their faces and go outside to hallow the moon. It is said that in the days of the Messiah, the moon will be restored to equality with the sun.

Waskow, Arthur, Seasons of Our Joy, Beacon Press 1982

Faeries of Mydffai
Faeries of Mydffai

August 10 St Lawrence
During a time of persecution, he sold the sacred vessels of the church and gave the money as alms to the poor, thus becoming the patron of the poor. This so enraged the Prefect of Rome that he ordered the saint to be roasted to death on a gridiron. St. Lawrence is reputed to have said to the soldiers who were roasting him, "You can turn me over. This side is done now," which is how he became the patron of cooks. He also protects against burns.

In Italy on this day, people show their respect for him by eating cold meals, rather than grilling or roasting. In Marradi, they eat watermelon; in Imperia, an enormous dinner salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, olives and anchovies. In Florence, the bakers and pastrycooks used to display their work in the plaza on this day.

The Perseid meteor showers are sometimes called "the fiery tears of St Lawrence."

Field, Carol, Celebrating Italy, Morrow 1990
Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens,
The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

August 10-12 Puck Fair
A three-day festival held in the little village of Killorglin in County Kerry. On the evening of the first day, Gathering Day, a white puck (from the Gaelic poc, a male goat), his horns bedecked with ribbons and rosettes, is borne in triumph in a lorry to a platform in the square. The Foley family is charged with the task of caring for the goat, which includes feeding him cabbages. On the following day, Puck's Fair Day, the decorated King presides over a great cattle, horse and sheep fair. On the final day, Scattering Day or Children's Day, the goat-king is dethroned by a throng of excited children. Accompanied by pipers, he is processed through town and over the bridge, whereupon he is turned loose. Or, according to MacNeill, he is carried around on the shoulders of four men, while the shopkeepers contribute to his upkeep, then auctioned off.

An old rhyme warns of what will happen to anyone who threatens the goat:

The hand that kills King Puck
Will wither like the dew.
The blade that cuts his whiskers
Will pierce your heart too.
The rope that hangs old Puck
Will execute its maker. . .

This fair was once a Lammas fair as indicated by a patent from 1613 that gives the proprietor the right "to hold a faire in Killorglin on Lammas Day and the day after." When the calendar was changed in 1752, it included an exemption for fairs stating that they might continue to be held on the natural day of the year to which people were accustomed.

Two other customs connect it with Lammas: dancing around the bonfires at night to traditional Irish music and the belief that if a single girl goes to Puck Fair she will leave “doubled.”

Although it is tempting to see the goat as evidence of an ancient pagan rite, MacNeill develops a convincing argument that it was a rather late development, perhaps first appearing in the 18th century, and influenced by English fair customs.

MacNeill, Maire, The Festival of Lughnasa, Oxford University Press 1962
Sanford, Jeremy,
Gypsies, London: Secker & Warburg 1973, p. 125

August 11 Dog Days end
This end of the ominous period associated with great heat and danger (see Dog Days (July 2).

August 11 St Attracta
What a great name! She was an Irish saint--the Celtic version of her name is Araght--who lived in the fifth or sixth century. Attwater is coy about what miracles she performed saying only that they were surprising.

Attwater, Donald, Dictionary of Saints, Penguin 1965

August 12 St Clare
A follower of Francis of Assisi, she began an order of nuns, the Poor Claires. She is a patroness of sore eyes.

Hoever, Rev Hugo, Lives of the Saints, Catholic Book Publishing Company 1955

August 12 Hercules the Invincible
The ancient Romans made a sacrifice on this day to Hercules Invictus (the Invincible). Women were excluded from the rituals, and various myths explained this, including the story that the followers of Bona Dea had refused Hercules a drink of water when he was thirsty because the goddess permitted no men in her presence. At any rate, he was a man's god, a manly man, a god who became human and thus understood human appetites. Merchants gave tithes of their profits and generals of their booty to finance a public feast. All animals sacrificed to him were completely consumed during the feast and there were no restrictions on what foods or drink could be offered.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

St Lawrence
St Lawrence

St Veronica
King Puck

August 13 Games of Lugh, Peak of Perseids
The Perseid meteor showers peak on this night. Unfortunately this year, because the moon is approaching full, the best time to view them will be earlier in the month. For more information on meteor watching, check out these links:

The ancient Celts may have associated them with the light-bearing god Lugh, who is honored at Lughnasad (August 1)., since he is a hero-warrior like the Greek Perseus. The Irish also called the Perseids "St Lawrence's tears," perhaps indicating that the story of St Lawrence's trial by fire is a later rendition of the myth of Lugh.

One of the stars in the Perseus constellation is Algol, also called the Goron or Medusa. To the Arabs, it was the Demon Star; the Hebrews as Lilith. It was considered an unfortunate, violent and dangerous star by ancient astrologers. Helen Farias points out that both Medusa, who Perseus beheaded, and Balor, who Lugh killed by stabbing his one fiery eye, were described as having malevolent or dangerous eyes.

Allen, Richard Hinckley, Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, Dover 1963
Byrd, Deborah, "Tonight's Sky," for July 17 & July 24, 2003, www.earthsky.com
Farias, Helen,
Harvest Mysteries, unpublished manuscript in my collection

For some beautiful photographs of the Perseid meteor showers, see these photos taken by Wally Pacholka:


August 13 Nemoralia of Diana, Festival of Torches
The Romans took the Greek festival honoring Artemis and Hecate (see August 11) and gave it a fixed place in the solar calendar on this date. It was also known as Diana's Feast of Torches. Roman women marched in torchlight processions to the temples of Diana and Hecate. They also visited the groves of Diana with their hunting dogs on leashes to offer her thanks.

The temple of Diana on the Aventine was an asylum for runaway slaves and on this day all slaves of both sexes had a holiday. All women made a point of washing their hair on this day.

The mention of ritual hair-washing seems to connect this holiday with the prohibitions on washing and beautification which begin at the start of the month of Av in the Jewish calendar and at the start of August (see August 1) for the Greeks. The full moon of Av was celebrated with torchlight processions, bonfires and dancing.

Sacrifices were also made on this day to Vertumnus (an ancient Etruscan God associated with change, especially the seasons), Fortuna Equestris (in honor of a battle won by a cavalry charge), Hercules, Castor and Pollus, the Camanae (goddess of springs, later identified with the Muses--they also had their own holiday in October) and Flora.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

August 13 - 15 O-Bon
Liza Dalby comments that the O-bon festival is the halfway point in the ritual year for the Japanese. And like it’s mirror holiday, New Year’s Day, it is a time for giving formal gifts. Originally celebrated on the thirteenth through the fifteenth days of the seventh month, therefore at the full moon, it is celebrated on August 13-15 in the western part of Japan, dates that would correspond with the old lunar calendar. However, it was moved back to the seventh month in 1873 when the Gregorian calendar was introduced and is celebrated on July 13-15 in eastern Japan, which includes Tokyo.

On the first day of the “Festival of Souls,” people decorate the graves of their ancestors with fruit, cakes and lanterns. On the second day, they set up spirit altars called tamadana in their homes. They set the memorial plaques of their ancestors on a rush mat, surrounded by vegetarian dishes and cucumbers carved to resemble horses on which the spirits can ride. (You can make a spirit horse by sticking toothpicks in a cucumber or eggplant—the dead need these steeds because they have no feet.) The third day is the day for the bon-odori, a slow hypnotic dance performed in concentric circles or multiple lines. At evening, tiny lanterns are set adrift on rivers or seas, to light the way for the souls returning to the other side.

Dalby describes how the O-Bon festival in Kyoto ends on August 16 with huge fires lit on the mountains surrounding the city. These fires are in fanciful shapes, for instance, a boat, a Shinto gate and Chinese characters, the most famous of which is the character for “big.” If you can get the image of the character dai (big) burning on the mountain reflected in your sake cup, and then drink all of the sake, you will not get sick all year.

Dalby, Liza, East Wind Melts the Ice: A Memoir Through the Seasons, University of California Press, 2007
Rufus, Anneli,
The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994

August 13 St Radegund*
St Radegund is one of the saints who took the place of the goddess as grain protectress, as described by Berger. Married to the brutal and philandering Merovingian King Clotaire, she fled from her husband after he murdered his brother. He tried to track her down but she was miraculously protected, in a story similar to those told about Mary. She came upon a farmer sowing his field and instructed him to tell anyone asking that he had not seen anyone pass by since he sowed his oats. Whereupon the oats grew so abundantly that she could hide among them and when the farmer duly reported her message, her husband gave up his pursuit. Her unofficial feast day is in February when oats are sowed but it also seems significant that she should be honored at the time of the harvest and in the same month as Mary in her guise as Harvest Goddess.

She was the patron saint for women afflicted with the pox, who were supposed to apply the skin of a black lamb to their skin, then send their husbands on a pilgrimage to St Radegund.

Radegund founded a monastery at Poitiers which became famous for the quality of the meals she served, thus she is the patron saint of female cooks. Her chaplain, Fortunat, the patron saint of male cooks, wrote her a letter praising a meal she prepared for him:

Next, a superb piece of meat, arranged in the shape of a mountain and flanked by high hills, the spaces between which were filled with a garden of various stews that included the most delicious products of earth and water….A black earthenware jar provided me with milk of the utmost whiteness: it was quite sure to please me.

Berger, Pamela, The Goddess Obscured: Transformation of the Grain Protectress from Goddess to Saint, Beacon 1985
Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens,
The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Larousse Gastronomique, entry on the Chef [alas, I did not record the date of this edition]

August 13 St Cassian*
Patron saint of schoolteachers; his pagan students stabbed him to death with their pen nibs.

Hoever, Rev Hugo, Lives of the Saints, Catholic Book Publishing Company1955

August 14 Eve of the Assumption
According to the advice given by an elderly husband to his young wife in 1393, the eve of Assumption is a good time for planting parsley.

Bayard, Tania, ed, A Medieval Home Companion, Harper Collins 1991

St. Swithin
Diana with torch on denarius

More August Holidays

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